Espionage

J. Edgar Hoover (second from left) stands behind Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the president signs a bill in 1934.

How World War II Helped Forge the Modern FBI

Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, J. Edgar Hoover consolidated immense power—and created the beginnings of the surveillance state

The entrance to the CIA Museum in Langley, Virginia

See Inside the Rarely Seen and Newly Reimagined CIA Museum

Off-limits to all but a few in-person visitors, the museum is starting to welcome the public, online at least

Experts were unable to pinpoint a cause of death, but three medical witnesses who testified during an inquest into the Somerton Man case agreed that his passing “was not natural.” 

Have Scholars Finally Identified the Mysterious Somerton Man?

New DNA analysis suggests a body found on a beach in Australia in 1948 belongs to Carl Webb, an electrical engineer from Melbourne

The men of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops created elaborate illusions featuring inflatable tanks, jeeps and artillery.

Untold Stories of American History

How the Ghost Army of WWII Used Art to Deceive the Nazis

Unsung for decades, the U.S. Army's 23rd Headquarters Special Troops drew on visual, sonic and radio deception to misdirect the Germans

The 15 freed hostages and their rescuers arrive at San José del Guaviare airport in July 2008.

The Daring Rescue Mission That Freed 15 Hostages Held in the Colombian Jungle for Years

A new exhibition at the International Spy Museum revisits Operación Jaque, a covert 2008 plot led by the Colombian military

As recent archival finds and reappraisals of well-known documents show, Liss forged her own path to freedom—and may have even spied on the British while doing so.

Untold Stories of American History

Did an Enslaved Woman Try to Warn the Americans of Benedict Arnold's Treason?

New research sheds light on Liss, who was enslaved by the family of a Culper Spy Ring leader and had ties to British spymaster John André

Kate Warne was the Pinkerton National Detective Agency's first woman operative. She died in 1868 at age 34 or 35.

Women Who Shaped History

How Kate Warne, America's First Woman Detective, Foiled a Plot to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln

In February 1861, the Pinkerton agent, posing as the disguised president-elect's sister and caregiver, safely escorted him to Baltimore

Lai Tek's espionage had geopolitical implications across Southeast Asia.

The Vietnamese Secret Agent Who Spied for Three Different Countries

Known by the alias Lai Tek, the enigmatic communist swore allegiance first to France, then Britain and finally Japan

The only reference to 355 appears in an August 15, 1779, letter: “I intend to visit 727 [Culper code for New York] before long and think by the assistance of a 355 [lady in the code] of my acquaintance, shall be able to outwit them all.”

Women Who Shaped History

The Myth of Agent 355, the Woman Spy Who Supposedly Helped Win the Revolutionary War

A single reference in the historical record has spawned an array of adaptations, most of which overstate the anonymous figure's role in the Culper Spy Ring

Sybil Ludington has been called the "female Paul Revere."

Women Who Shaped History

Did the Midnight Ride of Sibyl Ludington Ever Happen?

What to make of the alluring legend of the New York teen who warned that the Redcoats were coming

Josephine Baker's remains will be reinterred at Paris' Panthéon on November 30.

Performer Josephine Baker to Be First Black Woman Buried at Paris' Panthéon

The talented entertainer, activist and spy will be the fifth woman accorded one of France's highest honors

André Michaux, a French botanist, was an ambitious explorer whose legacy has largely been forgotten.

The Forgotten French Scientist Who Courted Thomas Jefferson—and Got Pulled Into Scandal

A decade before Lewis and Clark, André Michaux wanted to explore the American continent. Spying for France gave him that chance

This month's book picks include African Europeans, X Troop and Chasing the Thrill.

Books of the Month

African Europeans, Jewish Commandos of WWII and Other New Books to Read

These May releases elevate overlooked stories and offer insights on oft-discussed topics

Merab Ninidze and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Courier.

Based on a True Story

The True Story Behind 'The Courier'

A new spy thriller draws on the fascinating life—and whopping lies—of one of the U.K.'s most famous intelligence agents

Emilio Sanchez, who had come to the U.S. in his youth, was an ideal informant. Clockwise from top left: 1865 bird's eye view of New York and environs, capture of a slave ship off the African coast in 1859, silhouette representing Sanchez, and page from Sanchez's notes

How a Cuban Spy Sabotaged New York's Thriving, Illicit Slave Trade

Emilio Sanchez and the British government fought the lucrative business as American authorities looked the other way

In the background, a photograph taken by an American U-2 spy plane over Cuba on October 14, 1962, shows a secret deployment of Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. Right, Juanita Moody, head of the National Security Agency’s Cuba desk.

Women Who Shaped History

The Once-Classified Tale of Juanita Moody: The Woman Who Helped Avert a Nuclear War

America’s bold response to the Soviet Union depended on an unknown spy agency operative whose story can at last be told

Informer William O'Neal (played by LaKeith Stanfield, seen wearing a beret in the foreground) provided the FBI with information used to plan Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton's assassination (portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya, standing with hand raised at the podium).

Based on a True Story

The True History Behind 'Judas and the Black Messiah'

Shaka King's upcoming film dramatizes Black Panther leader Fred Hampton's betrayal by an FBI informant

 Elizebeth Friedman was a star cryptanalyst who cracked hundreds of ciphers for the U.S. government.

How Codebreaker Elizebeth Friedman Broke Up a Nazi Spy Ring

A new PBS documentary traces her extraordinary life, from her Quaker upbringing to her career as the U.S.' first female cryptanalyst

A team of divers found this rusted—but still recognizable—Enigma cipher machine at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The Nazis used the device to encode secret military messages during WWII.

Cool Finds

Divers Discover Nazi Enigma Machine Thrown Into the Baltic Sea During WWII

German forces used the device—likely cast into the water to avoid falling into Allied hands—to encode military messages

A KGB spy pistol used by female operatives and designed to look like a tube of lipstick

You Could Own a Lipstick Gun, a Poison-Tipped Umbrella and Other KGB Spy Tools

Next February, Julien's Auctions will sell some 3,000 items from the shuttered KGB Espionage Museum's collection

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